How do you determine whether a counselor is likely to aid healing or cause harm, without spending lots of time and money first? Here are seven key questions you can ask before beginning your therapeutic journey, to gain insight into a provider's approach and philosophy.
Before you invest your hard-earned resources into therapy for trauma or recovery as the spouse of a sex addict, it's important to discover whether the therapist or counselor is well-trained in the right areas.
You're looking for someone who is familiar with the tools and patterns of abuse, not merely physical domestic violence. They need to express comprehension of psychological and emotional trauma, spiritual abuse, and the damage that can be done by misusing power and control. Ask how often they see abusers truly experience lasting change? (The answer is roughly 1 in 10.)
Any therapist who downplays the trauma caused by infidelity or porn addiction isn't a safe choice. Porn use is abuse. Porn use is adultery. To diminish the impact is to perpetrate double abuse and enable sexual exploitation to continue. Ask which books they recommend for betrayed spouses to read? Do they believe structured separation can be helpful? The answer should be Yes.
If a counselor or therapist emphasizes your need to forgive rather than the abuser's need to become safe, keep looking for someone else. (This doesn't mean you shouldn't work toward forgiveness at the right time.) Ask what their criteria are for assessing real repentance? How long do they think you should wait to see it proven? Compare their responses to the seven traits of a repentant abuser outlined in Psalm 82 Initiative's article HERE.
Any therapist who equates forgiveness with the need for trust, reconciliation, or restoration - is going to be focused on repairing the relationship rather than address the abuse or guiding you toward individual healing. You want a counselor who is going to focus their attention on what will help you heal, not on sending you back into danger. Your therapist should recognize their limitations and not try to play God with your safety.
Look for someone who does not limit their justification to merely physical sexual adultery as a biblical reason for the end of a marriage. Abuse, abandonment, sexual addiction, child molestation, physical assault -- all of these violate the marriage covenant and misrepresent the love of Christ in a marital relationship. For more biblical study on this topic, watch this video.
According to more than ten thousand hours of research by Dr Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means (see Your Sexually Addicted Spouse) as well as data from Betrayal Trauma Recovery, the co-dependency model is typically misapplied to survivors of domestic violence and betrayal trauma. A therapist who promotes the "co-dependent" label is (even if unwittingly) promoting outdated research.
Listen for names of experts, researchers, and authors such as:
Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing
Dr. Omar Minwalla, Institute for Sexual Health
Dr. Barbara Steffens, Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS)
Dr Joan Meier, George Washington University
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